Gandhi Circuit in Bihar
In April 1917, Mohandas Karam Chand Gandhi came to face the truth in Champaran, Bihar about the exploitative repression of European Indigo Planters.
During the time of British occupation, the peasants farmers of Champaran were highly exploited by the indigo cultivators. The European planters controlled and implemented the “Tinkathia System” – an compulsory planting of indigo on a portion of a tenant’s holding for nominal compensation. The Government Executive was in favor of the planters. The Bengal Tenancy Act and other laws made the lives of peasants much worse. The planters also used forceful methods to extract money, including placing them in temporary prisons, taking their cattle and imposing illegal taxes on marriage and homes.
In December 1916, Sri Rajkumar Shukla, a frustrated Champaran farmer, went to see Mahatma Gandhi at an Indian National Congress. He meted and insisted that the latter move a resolution condemning the situation and treatment of Champaran tenant farmers.
After seeing the conditions himself, Gandhi decided to do a detailed study of Champaran’s 2,841 villagers, with regard to the condition of the peasants.
The European Commissioners of the Tirthut division, Morshed, advised Gandhi to leave the district with the argument that governmental enquiries were already underway. In response, Gandhi presented him a letter signed by several prominent Indian Congressmen asking for an assessment of the situation of peasant farmers in Champaran.
On April 16, 1917, while Gandhi and his assistants were working, the police served him a notice that barred his staying in Champaran, and he was told to leave by the next possible train. In return, Gandhi wrote a letter defying the order and that he would rather suffer the penalties of the “disobedience”. On the 18th of April, he appeared before a court for violating section 144 of the code of criminal procedure. However, aggravated by Gandhi’s popularly and the way he stirred up the peasants, the Lieutent – Governor ordered the case to be withdrawn. By June 12, Gandhi and his co-workers had recorded over 8000 statements, and began to compile and official report. They also held several meetings in places such as Bettiah and Motihari. The gatherings attracted somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 people. On October 3, they submitted a unanimous report favoring the peasants to the Government.
On October 18, the Government published its resolution, essentially accepting almost all of the report’s recommendations. On November 2, Mr. Maude introduced the “Champaran Agrarian Bill” that was passed and became the Champaran Agrarian Law, which was accepted in March 1918.
In the history of the freedom struggle against the British Colonizers in the Indian subcontinents, the Champaran Satyagraha has been seen as a watershed moment, a first step of defiant disobedience against the mighty British Raj. Gandhi’s experiment in Champaran was followed by a larger scale realization in the form of Satyagraha, non-cooperation and civil disobedience movement that swept the country and changed the course of the Indian freedom struggle forever.
Today in Bihar, a tourist can explore the places related with Mahatma Gandhi and his Satyagraha Movement. These places are :
Motihari soil holds the starting point of Indian’s independence movement launched by Gandhi Ji. The Satyagraha was experimented in Champaran district and soon become the movement of Indian Freedom fight. A Museum and a Stone Pillar are there to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s links with Motihari. Gandhiji’s courageous statement given before a magistrate is inscribed here on a stone. The 48 ft tall chunar stone pillar stands exactly on the place where Gandhi was produced before the court of the then Sub-divisional magistrate on April 18, 1917 for violating prohibitory orders.
Hazarimal Dharamshala, Betia (West Champaran)
It is at Betiah in the Lal Bazar area. where the Mahatma and his team met and noted the complaints of peasants against Indigo Planters. The Govt. has declared this building a protected monument. The Betia Raj Kuteherry and the Dharmashala were Mahatama Gandhi stayed are well worth visit.
The most famous Gandhian site in Champaran is Bhitiharwa. It is a place where Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi) and Ba set up a school and ashram in 1917. The Bhitiharwa Ashram has become a permanent fixture on the political pilgrimage map. Recently government has erected an ashram complex which includes a museum.
Brindaba (West Champaran)
It is a small village in the Betia sub-division under Champatia Block. It has the Gram Seva Kendra, which had been planned to work out the deals of the Gandhi Seva Sangh. The all India Gandhi Seva Sangh held there annual conference at this village in 1937. Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Rajendra Prasad attended it. Gandhiji stayed here in 1939 and started an Ashram, which is still functioning.
Shri Rampur (West Champaran)
Situated in the Gannaha Block of Bhitiharwa Panchayat. Gandhiji had stayed here on 16th November, 1917.
Koeldih (West Champaran)
Under Gaunaha Block in the Belwa Panchayat. Gandhiji had visited this place on 16th November, 1917.
Amolwa (West Champaran)
Under Gaunaha Block in the Majharia Panchayat, where Gandhiji spent a night on the 27th April, 1917 with his other companions.
Murli Bharhawa (West Champaran)
It was the native place of Pandit Raj Kumar Shukla who had been a close associates of Mahatma Gandhi during the Champaran Satyagrah Movement. Pandit Shukla took a lead role in bringing Mahatma Gandhi to Champaran.
Sariswa (West Champaran)
This place is in Ratanmala Panchayat under Majhaulia Block-Gandhiji and his companions had taken statement of raiyats in a open yard in front of the temple.
Hardiya Kothi (West Champaran)
It is under Bishunpur Panchyat of the Nautan Block. It was house of Mr. G. P. Edward, a British Indigo Planter. Remains of this building are in some what better condition in comparison to other such old buildings.
Sadaquat Ashram (Patna)
It is situated in Digha area on Patna Danapur Road and in pre independence days guided the freedom movement in Bihar. It is Associated with the memories of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Mautana Mazharal Haque and other leaders.
It is situated in Patna, the capital of Bihar. This museum contains the objects and relic of Mahatma Gandhi and his followers. There is a library inside the museum which contains the manuscripts, letters and literature related to Mahatma Gandhi and his Champaran Satyagraha.